As the Tauranga Moana Matariki Festival kicks off this week there is no shortage of things to do, with more than 40 events scheduled over the next seven weeks.

This year was going to be "a big one", one of the co-ordinators, Bernie Johnson said.

The 15th annual Matariki Festival, which celebrates the Maori New Year, is bigger and longer than any other year.

It kicked off early yesterday morning with a guided hikoi (walk) up Mauao led by traditional navigator Jack Thatcher, who showed the walkers the rise of the Matariki star cluster from atop the peak. The walk was followed by a karakia and a breakfast for kaumatua and dignitaries.


Last year saw Tauranga residents enjoy about 35 events over a four-week period, but this year 18 different organisations have come together to offer more than 40 events, workshops and exhibitions over seven weeks, Ms Johnson said.

Ms Johnson said more organisations wanted to get on board this year at the festival which kept getting bigger and bigger.

The festival was also extended this year to include the school holidays.

"Normally school holidays falls in between [the festival] but this year the school holiday period tags at the end this year, so we've just continued the festival through," Ms Johnson said.

A lot of hard work had gone into planning the festival, she said, "planning for the next Matariki starts almost straight after the last one finishes."

Almost all events would be free or would ask for a gold coin donation and would take place all over Tauranga.

Ms Johnson said the festival provided a opportunity for families to get outside and learn about their culture together.

Highlights of the festival included an exhibition at Creative Tauranga, which would display Tauranga artist's Matariki-themed work until July 1, workshops for kids organised by Tauranga City Libraries, Baycourt and Te Puna i Rangiriri Trust and DoC which covered astronomy presentations, kite-making and science, and a series of Matariki lectures by well-known speakers.

The Matariki Kite Day was back, where families were invited to fly their own kite or watch the kite display on show at Fergusson Park on July 3.

The festival would end at the waterfront with a celebration featuring lights, lasers, fire and food on Saturday and Sunday, July 16 and 17 from 5 to 10pm.

View the festival schedule at

Important date:

Matariki Tauranga Moana Festival runs from today until July 22.

Maori determined the beginning of the new year by tracking the rising of a cluster of stars named Matariki.

They are an important cluster of stars, as they not only signify the Maori new year, but were traditionally key navigational tools for ocean voyages. Matariki is one of the most significant celebrations in the Maori calendar.